Internationally acclaimed landscape architect, Thomas Woltz, led Master Plan design
Houston, TX – May 16, 2018 — With a focus of creating the best urban park in America, Houston’s Kinder Foundation has granted $70 million to fast-track Memorial Park’s Master Plan, one of the nation’s largest and most distinguished restorations directed by Memorial Park Conservancy, Houston Parks and Recreation Department, and Uptown Development Authority.
Esteemed landscape architectural firm, Nelson Byrd Woltz (NBW), led the Master Plan’s design in 2015; incorporating vast public and stakeholder input as well as expert consults from ecological, biological, and conservation scientists. NBW achieves beautification and excellence through organic revitalization, indigenous design, integrity of historical intent, and stewardship of space, hallmarks desired for the park’s sustainable future. With Kinder Foundation’s $70 million lead gift, the largest single parks grant in Houston history, private-public funding is in place to complete Master Plan priorities within 10 years. This gift also catalyzed a public-private park operations model to provide for park care and maintenance for decades to come.
NBW challenges the traditional paradigm of public parks with contemporary design language, embedding regional ecology into cultural narratives and natural histories. Firm owner, Thomas L. Woltz illustrates, “In tribute to Memorial Park’s original use as a WWI training camp, instead of constructing memorial statues, we are planting trees perfectly lined in a row to honor soldiers marching in formation.”
Memorial Park is unique because of its central location and size; at 1,500 acres, Houston’s largest green asset is almost double New York’s Central Park. The park’s 600-acre urban wilderness is one of the largest centrally located urban forests in the country. So, preserving the park’s natural environment, sustainably balancing conservation with recreation, serves as a nationwide model for urban forest and park renewal.
Completed projects over the next decade will improve Houston’s mobility, connectivity, economic vitality, and resiliency. Hundreds of acres of parkland currently inaccessible will become accessible, and urban barriers that isolate and segregate the park will be replaced with bridges and access points.
The most notable is a signature land bridge, artfully planned as a habitat overpass with restored prairie and trails. This central connector provides safe crossing over the park’s dividing thoroughfare for humans and wildlife, and creates a cohesive park experience.
To Woltz, “Parks are one of the last truly democratic places,” and Kinder Foundation must arguably agree. Kinder Foundation has been instrumental in Houston’s nationally recognized green space renaissance over the past ten years, giving $106 million in transformational grants before Memorial Park’s gift, that often serve as the cornerstone for additional philanthropic and government funding.
About Memorial Park Conservancy
Memorial Park Conservancy is a non-profit organization created to restore, preserve, and enhance Memorial Park for the enjoyment of all Houstonians, today and tomorrow. Incorporated in 2000, the Conservancy’s vision is to implement the principles of world-class park management and stewardship in partnership with the Houston community. A volunteer Board of Directors is led by Chairman Steve Jenkins, and a highly qualified staff works under the leadership of President & CEO Shellye Arnold. As of February 2016, Memorial Park Conservancy is operationally responsible for managing 1,100 of the park’s 1,500 acres including the green spaces, open spaces and trails. For more information, visit www.memorialparkconservancy.org.
About Kinder Foundation
The Kinder Foundation, a family foundation established in 1997 by Rich and Nancy Kinder of Houston, Texas, provides transformational grants that impact urban green space, education, and quality of life. More at kinderfoundation.org.